Mark Hill has been asked to work in some challenging places, but none were like shooting in Atlanta’s Fulton County Jail for A&E’s show 60 Days In: Atlanta.
“I have worked on plenty of television shows in tough environments, such as working oil rigs, inner city pawn shops and even scrubbed in for open heart surgery, but nothing was quite like shooting in a working jail amongst the inmates.“
“As you can imagine, security was tight on this show. I had to pass an extensive sheriff’s background check before I was even hired. Once approved, I was given strict orders of what I could bring into the “pods” that housed the convicts. Cameras only. No phone, sharp objects or camera cases and absolutely nothing in my pockets. Since it was also a working television set, I could not bring additional lighting. Each pod had overall fluorescent lighting, plus one bright window on one wall. The color temperature was all over the map from full daylight to a mix of warm and cool fluorescent. Everything looked green as the light bounced off the institutionally painted walls.”
“60 Days In: Atlanta follows nine innocent participants who go undercover in Atlanta’s Fulton County Jail, to expose internal corruptions within the facility. The inmates were given a cover story and my role was to photograph all inmates equally so that no individual’s cover was blown. During the course of my day, I hung out in the pods and spoke to the inmates who were eager to talk to someone new. All were curious about my equipment and where I was from and at no time did I feel threatened or in danger."
“I divided my time between 2 prisons, one for men and one for women. The men were eager to chat. They told me of their lives, complained about the food and stated their hopes for the future once they were released from custody. The women were different. They also complained about the food, but were more aware of their appearance. They would check their hair in the mirror and some would flirt with me as I was shooting.”
“The key art image happened very quickly. One of the inmates (and an informant) left the common area and went into his cell. He partially closed his door and sat on his bed. I could see him through the thin window on his cell door, so I walked closer, shooting other inmates on the way, and stopped near his door. I shot five or six frames, looking at him through the glass and after he looked up, I moved on so as not to draw any unwanted attention. All in all, it took less than a minute to grab a shot that perfectly illustrated the show and the isolation of being an informant in county lock up.”
See more of Mark's entertainment portfolio here.